03/28/2020, 10.46
INDIA
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Delhi on lockdown, the coronavirus, an opportunity to 'cultivate our relationship with God'

by Percival Holt

We speak to the former president of the young Catholics of India. The uncertainty of daily life, the impossibility of going out, concerns ahead of Holy Week. Online Masses a good development, but "we need to rediscover the dimension of personal prayer".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The coronavirus has suspended daily life and blocked all movement. But this is the time to "rediscover the dimension of personal prayer, too often overlooked in the mechanics of daily life," says Percival Holt of Delhi, former president of the Movement of Young Catholics of India. He is blocked at the Bethania Center in Faridabad, home of the National Youth Center, where he had been taking part in a youth program for a few weeks already. Below is his story.

I have been on the campus of the National Youth Center for a few weeks with two other people. There was also a girl, but she returned home before the blockade and I will remain here until the end of the quarantine. The campus is not far from where I live. On the weekend, I would usually go home and spend time with my family. Saturday was the day dedicated to shopping at the market, some errands and visiting the capital. Now none of this is allowed any longer. We don't know which movements are allowed. Everything is constantly evolving. But I'm fine and I'm serene.

The prime minister decreed a national emergency last Sunday, March 22nd, and from the 25th all India has been put on lockdown for three weeks. Medical visits are also at risk. I went to the hospital for a checkup, but it was postponed. Everything is closed, couriers have stopped, postal services suspended. Only a few banks are open, but reaching them is a problem. Earlier this week, I had to go to a branch, but I was stopped by the police who asked me where I was going and why.

For now, my daily life hasn't changed much, but for other people it's an upset. You cannot travel or take the metro. People don't know how to spend time and are forced to stay indoors. On campus, however, there is always something to do: tidy up the rooms, clean, schedule events for when life will return to normal. The Archbishop of Delhi asked us to develop a training program for young people, so we are organizing the provision of courses.

The day passes with the usual rhythm. In the morning we celebrate Mass: we are very lucky to still be able to physically participate in the liturgy, because in general it is not allowed. Then we have breakfast, do our paperwork and have lunch. After the meal, we continue with programming or campus activities. In the late afternoon we play badminton or other sports. After dinner, we meet again to discuss youth ministry and service to the Church, discussing all manner of topics.

Every day I have the opportunity to gather in meditation in the chapel. I am left alone for the time necessary to pray and listen to religious songs. Together with the priest I discuss my faith concerns and catechesis. It is a real privilege to be able to live with a priest who continues to follow me and celebrate mass. On the contrary, for other people it is not even possible to confess.

We do not know what the plans for Holy Week will be, if we can celebrate the Way of the Cross, participate in spiritual retreats and religious services. Many are worried because they don't know how to practice their faith in this situation. My grandmother also asked me: “What will the Way of the Cross be like? How will we do without Mass? ”. It is a new situation for everyone, except perhaps for our grandparents who experienced the partition of India [in 1947] and the war.

Many bishops, priests and even Pope Francis have organized themselves to broadcast mass online. All of this is a good thing. But I believe that people should take the opportunity to spend this time for personal reflection and prayer. Otherwise, how can we live our faith in a situation like this, in which it is not possible to attend mass? Going to church is not the only way you can cultivate the spirit. It is the right time to reflect and take stock of one's relationship with God, to be alone and to pray. People's behavior has become increasingly mechanical, they only attend mass on Sundays. Instead, in this way a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Father can be discovered.

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